Man-made greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) — and how to phase down their use in commercial refrigeration and other equipment — will be the topic of the Montreal Protocol meeting in Kigali, Rwanda this week.
The EPA says HFCs can be up to 10,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The countries at the Kigali meeting are widely expected to adopt an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs, thus slowing climate change. The question now is: how aggressive will this amendment be?
The Environmental Investigation Agency says an amendment to phase down HFCs can avoid as much as 100 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, potentially reducing global warming by half a degree Celsius. For this reason, the EIA calls the Kigali meeting “the most important climate meeting of 2016.”
In advance of the climate meeting, a major coalition of hundreds of companies has committed to phasing out HFC refrigerants.
The Consumer Goods Forum, whose some 400 members include Unilever, Nestlé and Anheuser-Busch InBev, last week drafted a new resolution on refrigeration, calling on all consumer goods companies to phase out HFCs.
The resolution focuses on four key areas: the installation of new refrigeration equipment in markets where viable, the engagement with key stakeholders to overcome barriers in markets where installation is not currently viable, the reduction of the environmental impact of existing refrigeration systems and the development of individual targets and action plans to measure the first three points.
“Positive actions by leading global consumer goods companies over the last six years have proved the commercial and operational viability of low carbon refrigeration systems in many parts of the world,” said Alan Clark, CEO of SABMiller, in statement. “As part of our Prosper sustainable development ambition, SABMiller has a 2020 target to purchase no new HFC fridges. This new refrigeration sesolution will help the whole industry move towards eliminating high global warming-potential refrigerants from our sector, as part of our active commitment to the Paris climate agreement.”
The new resolution builds on the Consumer Goods Forum’s 2010 refrigeration resolution, which spurred the companies involved to trial new low-carbon technologies to replace HFCs.
As a result of this CGF members have installed low carbon refrigeration systems in more than 4,000 supermarkets, 4 million ice cream and drinks chiller units worldwide and industrial plants with the majority being natural refrigerants, according to a CGF report on its members refrigeration efforts.
PepsiCo, for example, has replaced HFC-free equipment in more than 25 counties since 2006. The company has also pledged that that all of its future point of sale equipment (coolers, vending machines and fountain dispensers) purchased in the US will be HFC-free by 2020.
PepsiCo la also joined a private sector initiative convened by the Obama administration in 2014 to curb HFCs globally. More than 20 other major companies including Coca-Cola, Target, DuPont, Honeywell have made a series of commitments — and announced HFC progress — under this White House initiative.